Natwest Campaign
M&C Saatchi London

Whilst the wind smashed our lights around outside, and our brave assistants stood in the downpour holding them in place, the artificial sun streamed through the windows and made us feel positively delightful. Continuous light is strange like that, it really does trick the eye. We were shooting Fergus, our model, who was being shocked. You see some cheeky child (really a very talent make up artist) had gone and drawn on him, and he was a bit too embarrassed to visit the bank. Thankfully Natwest offers loads of other ways to manage your money.

For those geeks amongst you the light was simple: as we were shooting moving image as well as stills so everything had to be continuous. Thus we put two massive “sun” lights outside and fired them through the window with warm gels on them to make it feel like morning light. Then added a bit of fill off the ceiling as required with some smaller lights.

Massive thanks to M&C Saatchi for making this happen, and to the wonderful team who worked on the shoot:
Production: Germaine Walker
Actor: Fergus Craig
DOP: Matt Barlow
Make up: Michele Rowbotham
Digi tech: Sheila Udeagu
Lighting Assistants: Alex Ingram, Andrew Goss and Max Barlow
Equipment: Direct Digital

How I work and create – a portfolio film

Here’s a short film to give an insight into the way I work and create – think of it as the next best thing to a portfolio meeting. I’m eager to find new ways to keep connected with clients and collaborators during this strange time. So if it leaves you wanting more then let’s have a zoom call or a walk in the park, or even meet up for a drink now that’s a thing again. Just drop me an email to say hello – [email protected] Massive thanks to my agent Germaine Walker for helping me to create this, to Girls In Airports for letting me use their beautiful music, and to BAFTA, British GQ and Peter Beighton for allowing me to use their video footage.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London - The Sunday Times Magazine - Sadiq Khan – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Sadiq Khan – The Sunday Times Magazine

“Being a leader is lonely. And I’ve struggled. I should feel confident talking about it. I shouldn’t feel that I’ve got to be this alpha male who demonstrates his virility by being super human.” Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London – in his interview with Decca Aitkenhead for The Sunday Times Magazine. When I photographed Sadiq it was my first commissioned shoot since Covid-19 had put the UK in lockdown. It had been a strange and horrible time, and I was nervous and eager to get back at it. My assistant and I set up in a big open space at the top of City Hall, donned our gloves and masks, and waited for the Mayor to walk in. It was so strange not shaking his hand, and not being able to get too close. It made me realise how much I normally use proximity in my approach to portraiture,...

Bez, a volunteer at the Bonny Downs Food Bank - Food Banks During Coronavirus – new personal project - Charlie Clift

Food Banks During Coronavirus – new personal project

Who would you turn to if you suddenly couldn’t afford to feed yourself or your family? When Covid-19 hit Britain the nation was put into lockdown; businesses, livelihoods and the economy ground to a halt. Since then food banks across the nation have seen a dramatic surge in demand. For hundreds of thousands of people food banks are the only way they can survive. “Schools and venues closed, so my income closed,” says Antiqu’e, a freelance musician and artists who lives with her 16 year old son, “that is my livelihood, that’s how I pay my bills, my whole earning ability shut down.” The Trussell Trust, who organises a network of 1,200 food banks across the UK, has seen an 89% increase in demand for emergency food parcels since Covid-19. Many people employed in the gig economy have seen their work vanish, others in unstable employment have found themselves with...

Jake - FaceTime portrait photographed during lockdown - Project Isolation – Zebedee Models and Germaine Walker - Charlie Clift

Project Isolation – Zebedee Models and Germaine Walker

How do you photograph someone if you can’t meet them? My awesome agent Germaine Walker put me in touch with Zebedee Management to take part in Project Isolation, a project that required me to do just that. Photographing over FaceTime or Zoom I “met” three of Zebebee’s awesome models. First up was Jake. We dived into a totally new way of working, and a great fun collaborative process. I found that the restrictions from shooting remotely spurred creativity in me. I couldn’t use fancy lighting or complicated production, so I chose to simply concentrate on what was happening in the frame – to play with concepts and ideas and to be fully open to what Jake brought to the shoot. Jake and his Dad got really involved in our shoot – they turned a bedroom into a wonderful white studio space, all monotone. This looked fantastic and really gave us...

 - Olga – in my home studio - Charlie Clift

Olga – in my home studio

Keep on creating. Even if you’re not sure if you have space give it a go. I’ve been in lockdown for a while now and I wasn’t sure if I’d have room in the little office in our flat to put a backdrop up and make a studio, but I gave it a try. It turns out a backdrop support can just fit across the back wall if I rested one of the stands on top of my desk. So I hung some old cloth over it and it looked great – a nice little studio space. A doorway is the perfect thing to create a strip of light. So I popped a flash just outside the room then nearly closed the door and ‘voila’ a beautiful strip of warm glowing light. The perfect thing to play with. When I squeezed up against the opposite wall I had just about...

 - Lockdown self portrait - Charlie Clift

Lockdown self portrait

When there’s no-one else to photograph, photograph yourself. I had been wanting to experiment with this idea for a photograph for little while and in lockdown I’ve found the time, it’s just there’s no-one else to photograph so I decided to step into the frame myself, something I very rarely do. I created a little studios in the living room of our little flat in London and set up to create this abstract and colourful look. It’s made with just one light shot through a gobo with a lens to focus it. I made a custom insert for the gobo by sticking bits of coloured gels together, inspired a little by Mondrian. Then I fired it at my face. Another piece of red gel helped make the wall behind me red, and that’s it. It’s strange being in front rather than behind the lens, but one mustn’t stop creating just...

Coca Cola - Coca Cola and the Premier League – M&C Saatchi - Charlie Clift

Coca Cola and the Premier League – M&C Saatchi

Here is new campaign for Coca Cola to promote their sponsorship of the Premier League. Look out for it on a billboard near you. I lost my voice shooting this one, cheering along encouraging the best celebrations from our actors. We create both the print campaign as well as moving image content for digital use. Check it out below. Big props to the incredible people M&C Saatchi London for the commission and huge thanks to the brilliant team who helped this come together: actors Fay Jagger, Joey Bevan and Amron Adams, my awesome agent and producer Germaine Walker and her team, DOP and lighting guru Matt Barlow, digi tech Seb Niespialowski, assistants Max Barlow and Andrew Gloss, hair and make up Michele Rowbotham, props and wardrobe Katie Cordell, and food and drink stylist Tanya Sadourian. It takes a team!  

Jeremy Clarkson - The Sunday Times Magazine - Jeremy Clarkson – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Jeremy Clarkson – The Sunday Times Magazine

There’s nothing quite like a deadline to sharpen your senses and force you to make quick decisions. I had been given 5 minutes with Jeremy Clarkson, with about 2 minutes to set up. After darting around Jeremy’s garden I was shown to his office where I found a simple wooden wall – the perfect backdrop. We rushed to gather the vegetables which would be our props, leaving potatoes rolling down the driveway behind us. Seconds later Jeremy strolled up. It was amazing to see him change in front of a lens: from a slightly hung-over man announcing from the start that that he doesn’t like photoshoots, into a professional, seasoned presenter. Who knew one could be so expressive with a carrot? After multiple carrot munching photos I started piling vegetables high in his arms, encouraging more brilliant expressions and keeping the energy high. Then we dropped everything and rushed out...

First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon - The Sunday Times Magazine - Nicola Sturgeon – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Nicola Sturgeon – The Sunday Times Magazine

  How do you go about preparing to photograph the First Minister of Scotland? As always I dived straight in, throwing many many ideas into my sketchbook, tearing through artbooks, flicking through photobooks, looking for thoughts that would lodge themselves into my head and not go away. I knew I’d be shooting in Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence, it’s not everyday you get to poke your lens around somewhere like that – the house had to feature. But how to frame up in such a place? My mind started flicking though a mental scrapbook – from Leibovitz’s images of the Queen, via Rembrandt’s portraits and Velázquez’s Las Meninas. I wanted to reference centuries of pictures of states-people. But I also wanted to make my photographs of Sturgeon more approachable, more intimate, less staid. When we walked into the Drawing Room of Bute House, light was spilling in through...

Matt Tomlinson - recipient of Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and Military Cross - Tribute Ink exhibition in London – The National Army Museum - Charlie Clift

Tribute Ink exhibition in London – The National Army Museum

Tribute Ink is open until 17th of April in the National Army Museum in London. Do head on down to see the stories behind the tattoos and to learn about the history of tattoos. Also – if you’re around on the 4th of March we will be holding a special evening event at the NAM – do come on down then to say hello. It’s been such an honour to be involved in this fascinating and moving project, massive thanks to Royal British Legion for asking me to photograph it for them. To see the whole project click here: LINK To find out more about the exhibition head over the the NAM’s website: LINK